Transport to Golarion & Other Worlds
From a young age, I’ve always wanted to play Tabletop RPGs but never did until four years ago give or take a few months. It started out with the Greatest Role-Playing game and a small group of three, over time I’ve expanded my collection to house multiple RPGs, and it continues to expand to this day.
I never played the original Pathfinder, I owned it and the day I bought it Second edition was announced. Typical. The rulebooks and supplements I had were for reading as I eagerly awaited the new edition and August of 2019 I opened the Core rulebook and delved into the system that would soon become my Primary TTRPG system.
And who might you be?
As a forever GM (Game Master) the first thing I did was look at Character Creation to help with my group of now 7 to move across and to test the system in general (I also wept as i’ll never be able to play a character of my own, but that's another story) and what I found was interesting and a lot simpler than before - in my eyes, at least.
One of the things I enjoy as an avid Roleplayer is that the book at the very start of character creation mentions starting with a concept for your character, questions like: what race are they? During their ultimately tragic lifetime (All adventurers are a little messed up, It's the rules) what profession did they have? What class are they? And finally, do they follow a faith and what do they look like?
Notably the first change from other games and from the original pathfinder are races, they are now known as Ancestries in this version, of which you have Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Goblin, Halfling & Human, you also have Half-Elf and Half-Orc which are a heritage for humans. Each race has a selection of heritages, with more coming in later books for the game.
These give you certain bonuses based on which you choose, for example we’ll make a Goblin, let's call him Grikit. Now Grikit has a unique trait bestowed from his Heritage, Grikit is a Snow Goblin his skin a navy blue colour, meaning he lived in colder climates granting him resistance to Cold Damage, and treating environmental effects from these climates as a step lower than they are.
After choosing an Ancestry and Heritage, you gain what is known as an Ancestry Feat, Feats come in many types. Ancestry, Skill, Class, Multiclass Dedications and General Feats, we will go over them in length later. As a goblin I have access to nine feats from my ancestry, with my idea in mind I’ve decided to choose Goblin Song as my ancestry feat. This feat grants me a new action which causes enemies to take a negative one to Perception Checks and Will Saves.
Like other TTRPGs, Grikit has ability scores that show how bad or good he is at certain skills, in Pathfinder 2E there are two options to determine your scores. The traditional rolling system, where you roll four d6, taking away the lowest number and adding up the highest numbers to make your starting scores, those being Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.
Then you add boosts from your Ancestry, losing one of the boosts given by your ancestry, for example a goblin has three boosts but would instead only be able to use two if using this option, you’d then apply a flaw if any to those scores. Before finally applying the boost from your Background, giving you your starting scores.
The recommended route is having all scores start at ten, then you start to apply boosts and flaws from ancestry, boosts from background, your class and then apply four extra free boosts. (As a GM I prefer this way) As a goblin Grikit gets a boost in Dexterity, Charisma and a Free boost, gaining a flaw in Wisdom, (You seen the things goblins do in their spare time?) Grikit can use his free boost to cancel out the flaw to Wisdom or he can place it another ability score, except for Charisma and Dexterity as you can give a boost once per opportunity to boost a skill. Grikit takes the flaw voluntarily and places his free boost into Constitution.
Lets weave a little story and give life to this Goblin. Grikit is tired of seeing snow, ice and oh look at that more snow, he sets from his clan’s cave in search of adventure! Unfortunately he has no money, so he travels from town to town trying to find work before finally coming across a group willing to take him in, a travelling band. Grikit spends a portion of his life as an Entertainer, so we’ll choose that background. This gives him two ability boosts, a Free one and a boost that must go into either Dexterity or Charisma, he chooses Charisma and his free boost goes into Constitution.
For being an entertainer he becomes Trained in Performance and Theatre Lore skills, and gains a Skill Feat known as Fascinating Performance from his background. I’ll go more into Skills and what Trained means later.
Onto the final portion of character creation is your class, now you may have noticed where this is going, Grikit loves his voice and loves music, he is a Bard at heart, a weaver of magic through song and music. As a bard Grikit takes a boost to Charisma, and afterwards gains four free ability Boosts which will go into, Charisma, Constitution, Dexterity & Intelligence.
Grikit gains a number of additional bonuses, spells and skills from being a Bard, we won’t explore those options here though as this review will easily be over 4000 words long (Exaggeration, calling myself out. Checkmate me.) Let's not leave Grikits story there shall we, after several years with the travelling band, Grikit decides to travel to a nearby village seeking a life of adventure. His past life surely never coming back to haunt him later (Mwahahaha, Yes not at all. Nope. Nada.) In this nearby village he joins with other adventurers dealing with a Gnoll infestation. Years later tales are sung about him, how he caused a dragons head to explode with an almighty ballad of annoyance the rest fading into history. (We don’t talk about how he died because a giant used him as a toothpick, it was a sad day)
Meat, Potatoes and Rules
Now that character creation has been briefly gone through let's dive into the meat and taters, preferably pie form. For many TTRPGs you need a set of several polyhedral dice, only one set (Hahaha, I’m going to cry in my bathtub full of dice real quick, I can stop anytime!) after you have a character and the required dice, paper, pencils and the like it's time to begin.
Your GM will weave a story of wonder and whimsy, a collaborative story or novel that you and your friends take part in. While playing you will be doing what is known as a Check, there are several types of checks but a common component is the almighty d20 (Evil Dice, Happy Dice, I hate you Dice) now this dice is used for various tasks inside and out of combat so lets focus on the outside of combat purposes first.
When asked to make a check you will roll a d20 adding ability modifiers, proficiency, status, item and circumstances bonuses to the roll and taking any penalties the final number being the result. I mentioned Trained in Performance earlier, that is your Proficiency, so Grikit is Trained in Performance from his background and from being a Bard.
To work out proficiency it's based on the level of proficiency you are, these levels being Trained, Expert, Master, and Legendary. Giving a boost of 2, 4, 6 and 8 respectfully, you also add character level on top of that as well. Now skills use ability score modifiers, Grikit had a Charisma of 18 giving him a plus 4 to skills using this score. So let’s make a performance check, specifically to help distract the tavern patrons while our rogue gathers intel from the back office.
I roll a d20, plus seven from being trained in performance, I got a natural 20 for a total of 27 allowing the rogue to not get spotted and drawing the attention away for just long enough to get what we need.
A natural 20 in Second Edition pathfinder doesn’t mean an auto success like in other TTRPGs, a roll of 27 would have passed at level 1 with flying colours, but let's say it would have failed and the check was 28, impossible for my level. A natural 20 improves the step by one, so a critical failure which is 10 below the DC (Difficulty Class) would go to a failure, a failure to success, success to critical success which you still get if you get roll 10 over the DC. A critical failure a 1 on the d20 does the opposite bringing you a step down.
Unfortunately for us our rogue was still detected by an outside source, as we are looking over our information gathered we are approached by a few shady individuals and a fight breaks out. Before a fight starts we roll Initiative, which is a Perception check, for Grikit he is an expert in Perception giving him a plus 5 but taking a negative one to that bonus due to him being not very wise. Rolling a d20 plus 4 we get 13, not the best but we can work with it.
In combat you can do three actions, this is called the Action Economy, everything you do either uses an action, multiple actions, reactions and free actions but lets focus on simple combat. Our roll got us third in the initiative order, our Champion goes first charging forward to get the attention of the leader of these ruffians. Then a thug charges to us and goes to strike us with his dagger.
Pathfinder does not require you to roll defense, every character has an AC (Armor Class) which is like a DC that was mentioned earlier, unfortunately Grikit isn’t the most well armored and takes two hits from this dagger. Now it's our turn, we don’t need to use an action to move like our ally and enemy did we can use our strike action three times against the ruffian trying to kill us.
As a Bard we can cast spells most usually cost a spell slot and a few actions, but we decide to cast Chill Touch which is a Touch spell requiring us to be next to the person we are casting it on.
We use two actions out of three to do this, we don’t need to roll anything for this spell but the GM makes a saving throw specifically a fortitude saving throw.
Sometimes you’ll be required to make these, each using a certain ability modifier and proficiency like skills, Fortitude uses Constitution, Reflex uses Dexterity, Will uses Wisdom, they act like skills but are not rolled as often. Our GM rolled a 12 which doesn’t beat our DC, as a spellcaster Grikit gets a spell attack bonus which is Proficiency plus ability modifier, he also gets a DC which is Proficiency and Modifier plus 10. So now we roll damage, Chill Touch uses a d4 (Worse than legos) plus our spellcasting ability modifier which is charisma we deal max damage which would be 8.
Unfortunately the Ruffian is still standing, we make an attack with One of the things I enjoy as an avid Roleplayer is that the book at the very start of character creation mentions starting with a concept for your characteour Rapier against him, we roll our d20 but add our attack modifier for the weapon which is could be strength or dexterity plus proficiency, we get a natural 20 but we must take a negative penalty or attacking multiple times, this penalty is negative 5, if we attacked three times with our Rapier it would be a negative 10. We still crit and the ruffian dies from the blow we deal with the rapier.
Now If our encounter went differently we could have used what is known as a Hero Point, players are given one of these at the start of each session by the GM, and can gain more through splendid RP, Combat and anything that impresses the GM. These can be used to re-roll dice checks and even stop yourself from dying and is a handy get out of jail free coin? Sure why not. Mention that you’re going to use a hero point so the GM knows and can make a note, but these are usually used in difficult situations from my personal experience.
Now there are far more rules and specifics in the core rulebook but these are some of the basic and most common rules you will encounter while playing Pathfinder Second Edition.
Does it Roll a Natural 20 though?
We journeyed with Grikit and went through some basics but was the adventure fun? Well let's find out.
Pathfinder second edition really does a good job in my opinion. It's a solid system, I love the action economy and believe it provides a tactical approach to encounters. As a GM I found myself in other systems wanting to scream at a wall trying to balance encounters for my large party, Pathfinder has rules designed for larger parties in encounters which is a tremendous help.
If you’re looking for a nice meaty system you have one here, with new books, adventure paths and even standalone adventures you’ll never run out of content for your games.
If you’re looking for a new system to play, or even looking for some mega reading material Pathfinder second edition is a must have. The lore Paizo has written is amazing, the options for players are expansive and the potential for storytelling in homebrew and Golarion is immense. The artwork throughout the book draws you into a world of fantasy and adventure and gives life to a world many have adventured before, you should really step foot in this world and take an adventure yourself.
Obviously I couldn’t go through every rule and part of the core rulebook we’d be here all day, I’d recommend watching some actual plays of the game to get a broader look into the games mechanics such as Paizos own Oblivion Oath campaign and Knights of Everflame or watch Dragons and Things.
I hope what you’ve read has given you an idea of how the system plays and has been entertaining, while I wish it could have been longer I have plans to make my Pathfinder group hate me (The GM curse). I also feel like something dark and compelling is calling to me, something old and ancient. (Yes it is what you think)